Send to

Choose Destination

Structure and biomechanical properties of the trachea of the striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba: evidence for evolutionary adaptations to diving.

Author information

Department of Experimental Veterinary Science, University of Padova, Legnaro, Italy.


This study analyzes the structure and mechanical properties of the trachea of the striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba, one of the most common cetacean species. The cetacean trachea is made up of closed or semiclosed cartilaginous rings without a paries membranaceus. Our results indicate that the inner lining of the trachea contains erectile tissue in which several venous lacunae permeate the mucosa. We also observed and described the presence of peripheral neurons containing nitric oxide along the rim of the venous lacunae. Data obtained from compression and tensile tests and comparison with the pig and goat tracheas indicate a higher stiffness and a different, higher breaking point for the dolphin trachea. On the whole, our data suggest that the trachea of the striped dolphin possesses structural properties that allow rapid filling with blood, possibly in relation to dive activities, and also allow modifications due to increased pressure and immediate return to the original shape without risks of permanent bending or rupture, as would happen in a terrestrial mammal. As the organ undergoes intense pressure difference during descent to optimal foraging depth and subsequent rapid ascent to surface, especially in deep dives of hundreds of meters, the specific structural and biomechanical peculiarities of the trachea of the striped dolphin may represent an evolutionary adaptation to life in the water and to diving.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center